Thursday, March 3, 2016

Devilman (2004)

         Out of all the superheroes, Japan's are probably the most unique as well as outright weird. They come in an array of shapes, sizes, and powers ranging from the most absurd to practical. Either it be from the Tokusatsu styled heroes such as Super Sentai and Ultraman; or the manga/anime heroes such as The Big O and One-Punch Man. Manga artist Go Nagai is one of many artists who created their own strange heroes throughout the years with some being very popular. Nagai had pioneered the mecha genre with Mazinger Z as well as created unforgettable heroines like Cutie Honey. Debiruman (Devilman) is also a brainchild of this legendary artist but, what makes him cooler than giant robots and cute magical girls is that he is a demon. Demons as superheroes are quite interesting because they take an unexpected turn in heroism. Comic book heroes such as Etrigan, Hellboy, Spawn, and Ghost Rider gained their powers from the forces of darkness but, instead fight on the side to aid humanity instead of destroying it. Devilman is a Japanese horror/superhero film about a young man who becomes a demon to help save the world from total destruction.

      The cast in the film is quite interesting since it had actual twins playing Akira Fudo/Devilman (Hisato Izaki) and Ryo Asuka/Satan (Yusuke Izaki). Akira is a mild mannered high school student who becomes a demon with his humanity still intact while Ryo is his longtime friend turned foe. Actress Ayana Sakai portrayed Akira's love interest as Miki Makimura, whose family adopted Akira after his parents died in a car crash four years earlier. Miki's father, Keisuke, was played by actor Ryudo Uzaki (Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack) and Miki's mother, Emi, was played by actress Yoko Aki. There were plenty of good secondary characters throughout the film but, there were a few that stood out. First off, actress Asuka Shibuya (Karas: the Prophecy) played as Miko, a bullied girl turned demon similar to that of Akira. Second there was Ai Tominaga (R100) who took the legendary role as Silene, a harpy-like demon whose also the lover of the demon that possessed Akira. As a bonus for the film, American professional wrestler Bob Sapp (Elektra; Conan the Barbarian) was the world newscaster who filled in the gaps throughout the film.

      Devilman is the only live-action film in the franchise. The first anime aired in 1972 with a 1973 animated movie with Devilman teaming up with Mazinger Z. In 1987, an updated miniseries was released alongside an OVA for Amon: Apocalypse of Devilman which faced Akira against his inner demon, Amon. In 1994, the original concept for Devilman called Demon Lord Dante was released as an anime till 1996. This version was darker than what we have today and is considered the first incarnation for Devilman.  A spin-off appeared in 1998 as a gender-switching version called Devilman Lady plus another spin-off called Violence Jack, which consisted of three different OVA from 1986 to 1990. This version consisted of a possible link between the two series (both created by Go Nagai) in which Jack is actually Akira Fudo whose given a second chance to defeat Satan. Recently, another miniseries was created in 2015 that once again crossed Devilman with another famous Japanese superhero: Cyborg 009. Now back to the film, Devilman had good computer generated sequences in which Akira transformed into his demon form, or fought other demons. Even though they were short and quick; they were quite entertaining to watch but honestly they didn't hold the film. The storyline was alright but, at most parts it got kinda boring. The gore and blood effects were quite entertaining but, weren't over the top like other J-Horror films such as Machine Girl or Tokyo Gore Police. Even though the film was rated "13 and Older", the director sure wanted to stay away from the truly horrifying aspect that Devilman represents in the anime/manga.

       Here's an interesting fact about the word 'Devilman'. In the entire franchise when somebody refers you as a Devilman, it meant that you have more control than the demon whom possessed you. Basically a demon on the outside but, a human in the inside. That explains why Miko wasn't a murderous demon but, she was too a Devilman like Akira. The side story for her was also purposeful for the film because it should the willingness to live. Ironically, most of the humans in the films actually showed their true colors similar to that in Stephen King's The Mist. Human beings are the true monsters, not the other way around for the demons. The film did show a perfect example of fear and panic in people. Out all the scenes, the mob attack on the Makimura household was probably the strongest that represented this. My most favorite scenes were mostly centered around the time Akira transformed into his demon form. Out of all of them though; I have to say the fight between him and Silene, and the final showdown against Ryo/Satan were my favorite.

      My rating for Devilman is a 3.5 out of 5. Even though this film is not the best representation of the franchise, it did have pros about it. First off, this film actually got me into the franchise and I'm grateful for it. Second, it showed two sides of the human psyche: the dark side in which people begin to feed off fear and panic to the point that they lose their humanity; and the lighter side that never gives up even if its the end of the world or losing a childhood friend. Thirdly, the film actually followed most of what happened in the manga/anime with a few changes here and there. I recommend this movie solely for a bad movie night, or to finish off a Devilman marathon. My advice would be to watch the anime first of either adaption or spin-off before viewing the film to gain background knowledge on the actual storyline. Watch Amon: Apocalypse of Devilman instead because that won't disappoint you. I'm not saying Devilman isn't worth your time since it did more good than harm for myself but, please be aware that you should probably do your homework before jumping into this live-action version.

"Demons don't cry, Akira." 

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